Two news stories at the end of last week really caught my attention. First, the Clintons finally released their tax returns. They show the former and possibly next Presidents earned a combined $109 million since leaving office.
Second, the U.S. economy lost 80,000 jobs in March, the biggest drop in five years, bring the unemployment rate to 5.1%.
Of course, the two stories aren’t connected, really. But they do underscore a reality in the U.S.–the gap between the upper class and the middle and lower classes is widening, and this has a lot of people scared. Unfortunately, it’s also resulting in some really bad ideas coming out of Washington, but I’ll come to that in a moment. First let’s look at the Clinton’s income.
Hillary Clinton’s Tax Returns
For months Senator Obama’s camp has been clamoring for Hillary Clinton to release her tax returns. Last week she finally went public with her income for the past eight years. If she had done so months ago, it probably wouldn’t have been much news. Her delay in releasing the returns was as much news as the tax returns themselves. That being said, here’s the breakdown of how the Clinton’s made their money:
- President Clinton’s Speaking Fees: $51.9 million
- Book Advances and Royalties: $29.6 million
- Business Relationship with Ronald Burkle: $12.5 million
The above are the major categories of income. President Clinton also has a pension and Senator Clinton collects a salary, of course. The relationship with Mr. Burkle will undoubtedly raise some questions, but on the whole, I don’t begrudge the Clinton’s the income they’ve earned. If I could earn $51 million through speaking engagements or $30 million through book deals, I would. But it will be interesting to watch how the other candidates attack this issue. If you want to dive into the details of the Clinton’s earnings, check out this WSJ’s article, Clintons Say They Earned
$109 Million Since 2000.
5.1% Unemployment Rate and a Second Stimulus Package
Call it bad timing, but I’m guessing Senator Clinton would have preferred not to have released her tax returns the same week the unemployment rate jumped to 5.1%. Nevertheless, government to the rescue. Nancy Pelosi has called for a second stimulus package, while Senators Clinton and Obama have called for a second stimulus package and extension of unemployment benefits. Why?
These stimulus packages are like giving somebody in horrible debt a credit card to ease the pain. What we need from Washington are leaders who can (1) make the difficult decisions, not just the popular ones, and (2) convince the American people to support those tough decisions. It’s the second point that’s the toughest. President Bush has failed miserably at building consensus in our country with respect to both foreign and domestic policy. I view that as his biggest failure, even more so than the actual decisions he’s made. President’s Reagan and Kennedy were good communicators, whatever you thought of their politics. And the more I hear from politicians today as it relates to or economy, jobs, investment and the like, the more I’m reminded of one of President Kennedy’s famous lines: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
I fear we’ve moved so far away from this sentiment, that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to solve our own problems. Unemployment is up a few tenths of a percent, how can Washington help? The stock market drops 400 points, Washington to the rescue. Consumer spending might fall from absurd levels to just ridiculous lives, let’s mail rebates checks.
Here’s a thought–stop trying to buy our votes and earn them instead.